TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Morse Reviews Sugin's The Social Meaning Of The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act

Jotwell (Tax) (2016)Susan Morse (Texas), Morality and the 2017 Tax Act (JOTWELL) (reviewing Linda Sugin (Fordham), The Social Meaning of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 128 Yale L.J. Forum (Oct. 25, 2018)):

I am on alert for tax law changes as I teach Federal Income Tax this semester for the first time since the passage of the 2017 tax act. They seem to appear out of nowhere, rather than as part of a predictable pattern. What can explain seemingly disconnected provisions, scattered throughout the Code and enacted without an explicit policy explanation?

Linda Sugin takes on this question in The Social Meaning of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, published in 2018 at the Yale Law Journal Forum. Her critical perspective makes an effort to divine the worldview embedded in the TCJA based on the content of the enacted law. Sugin’s engineering effort shows the following “American priorities and values revealed by the TCJA:

  1. The traditional family is best;
  2. Individuals have greater entitlement to their capital than to their labor;
  3. People are autonomous individuals;
  4. Charity is for the rich; and
  5. Physical things are important.”

Sugin reviews dozens of provisions to support her arguments. ...

Sugin is surely right to say that “efficiency is a value” (P. 405) and to point out that law cloaked in the garb of efficiency or competitiveness nevertheless has social meaning. This legislation has winners and losers, even if rhetoric about efficiency obscures this fact. Perhaps legislators did not willfully intend to favor swashbuckling primary-earner investors with stay-at-home spouses, rather than risk-averse single-parent employees. Nevertheless, Sugin shows results that are there, enacted in the statute. As Sugin points out, the law itself communicates values and reveals over time its embedded social meaning.

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A tax preference for labor could be efficient: once necessities are covered, it's relatively easy to let investments grow, whereas working is often a pain.

Posted by: Anand Desai | Mar 12, 2019 9:15:53 PM